Uptime is everything to a fleet. The most important thing for an individual truck’s profitability is the amount of time it spends on the road, running its route and doing its job. When the truck needs service, it needs to be done right, but expedience is also key—fleets don’t want that asset out of commission any longer than it has to be.
“This is one of the fundamental challenges that our industry faces today,” says John Walsh, Mack Trucks’ vice president of global marketing and brand management. “On an industry-wide basis, the average repair by dealers on a Class 8 truck today takes three and a half hours—but the truck is down an average of four days.”
The rapidly growing industry-wide trend of spec’ing proprietary powertrains is starting to drive business back to OEM-supported dealers, according to Mack President Dennis Slagle. That being the case, closing that four-day gap is a priority throughout the industry, and Mack has introduced a variety of programs aimed at reducing downtime. One of these is the GuardDog telematics system, which pro-actively monitors the truck, looking for potential issues before they become real ones.
“The technicians work with the customer on everything from scheduling repairs at a dealer to making sure the parts are there before the truck arrives—all while the truck is still on the road,” says Walsh.
The next step in reducing downtime for Mack comes in the form of its Certified Uptime Centers, which the company introduced in October 2015 and began implementing this year. The same program was also introduced by sister company Volvo Trucks.
The process includes establishing uptime bays for repairs that take less than four hours, and designated advanced bays for the longer repairs.
Currently, 49 dealer locations are Certified Uptime Centers (CUCs), but Mack has 430 locations in total, and all will at some point be evaluated for this certification.
“We’re working dealer by dealer on the certification process; the dealer has to enact these processes to become certified,” Walsh says. “We’ve gone back to dealers who aren’t delivering on it, and we’ve pulled their certification until they bring it back up to speed.”
According to Mack, the CUCs have increased repair orders that have been closed by 21%; increased shop efficiency by 8%; increased shop throughput; and reduced the aforementioned four-day industry average time spent in repair by half, from four days to two.
Mack is not the only truck OEM with a focus on reducing service turn-around times. Kenworth Trucks has instituted a program known as PremierCare Gold. For a Kenworth dealer to become PremierCare Gold certified, there are seven criteria it must meet: an express lane for two-hour triage; extended hours of service; 24-hour roadside service; certified PACCAR engine technicians; outstanding parts availability; dedicated TruckTech+ personnel; and a driver lounge. According to Kenworth, 100 of its 370 dealers have met this certification, with the eventual goal being for all dealers to meet the criteria and become certified.
Daimler Trucks North America has a dealer certification process in place as well. In Daimler’s case, the program is known as Elite Support, and is comprised of a dealer certification process of more 120 different criteria, developed collaboratively between dealers and an internal Daimler panel. Dealers must be re-certified on an annual basis to remain in the program.
These types of programs are becoming a growing trend throughout the industry, and the result of this trend can only be positive for fleets with goals of reducing downtime.